Underlying Questmate founder Sascha-Manuel Reuter’s success so far has been his unwavering commitment to a product-first approach. As an 80s kid and self professed ‘retro game nerd’, Sascha’s knack for strategic problem solving comes at no surprise. Spending his hours after school playing adventure games and scrolling through BBSes, Sascha’s love and natural affinity for tech and innovation quickly manifested into a career packed with success.
After a number of years working as a Senior Network and System Engineer, Sascha founded tape.io, the company and team behind doctape, a cloud storage solution which was acquired by Atlassian in 2014, just three years after he founded it. Sascha continued his relationship with Atlassian working there for over six years before deciding to undertake his next entrepreneurial endeavour in the tech space – Questmate.
Founded in late 2020, Questmate is a mobile and web app that redefines how people work through ‘Quests’ – workflows which connect what a team or individual needs to do, to how they do it. Quests combine the simplicity of to-do lists with powerful integrations of external systems and even control of IoT devices, right from the Quest. By allowing Quest creators to set due dates, escalate to other team members, add attachments and more, Questmate aims to ensure that no part of a workflow falls through the cracks.
In a recent article he wrote, Sascha describes how he went about engaging investors and raising capital through the use of his product, instead of the traditional, tried and tested pitch deck. In the article, Sascha emphasises the importance of leveraging your product in everything you do.
Excited to learn more and chat about his experience as a founder, I jumped on a Zoom call with Sascha on a warm Friday afternoon at Fishburners hoping to catch a glimpse into his wealth of experience in product development, namely his commitment to the product-first approach.
Product-first companies place their focus on building their product above all else, utilising product-led growth (PLG) strategies. Product-led growth is a go-to-market strategy and growth model where founders rely mainly on the product itself for customer acquisition and conversion. PLG strategies are used by the likes of Slack, Calendly, Evernote, and now by Questmate, which according to founder Sascha, is taking this approach a little further.
Why Sascha takes a product-first approach
Hoping to delve deeper into his methodology around product development, I ask Sascha why he believes ‘product first’ is the way to go. As he explains the reasons behind his approach, it becomes obvious that Sascha not only vehemently believes in this principle, but also lives it in the way he builds his second product startup, Questmate.
“Every single thing we do or work on at Questmate is guided by one principle: Everything is a Quest, and every Quest is awesome. In practice this means that everything new we touch starts with one simple question: How can this be driven or built upon a Quest, and what would the best possible version of that look like?”
“At the very minimum, this can be as simple as driving the process behind a task itself. The more we keep investing into expanding the capabilities of Quests themselves though, the more often this gets much further than that. From actually being able to finish the task at hand right from the Quest itself, to building entire new features on top of Quests.”
“Let me give you a more concrete example. Instead of building our new product onboarding as a separate and single-usage thing, we’re building it, you guessed it, upon Quests! The same goes for the way our users will be able to initially set up new Quests.”
“To make whatever we build on Quests awesome though, there are sometimes missing features or optimizations we often have planned already, just not prioritised yet. So instead of spending the time in building that separate, single-usage thing, we get to spend that time on pulling some of these planned features forward, and therefore build something reusable. By making Quests not only more awesome, but applicable to even more use-cases.”
“It doesn’t end there though. Whenever we build something for ourselves upon Quests, we force ourselves to think about that one more thing: how can we allow others to leverage Quests for the very same thing, e.g. providing an awesome onboarding experience for their product.”
“See how it works?”
As you can see, Sascha’s approach is a multiple birds, one stone solution, as he and his team channel resources that would have been spent elsewhere into extending and existing their product.
“Some people might fear that we drive it to the extreme and build something that is just for one specific use case. But so far, we’ve been building exactly what we had planned. Following this principle not only helped us prioritise some features, but actually provided the bandwidth to build them.”
Sascha further explains that leveraging the product in different use cases also allows stakeholders to experience the product. When done correctly, it makes selling the item significantly easier.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re selling your product to customers, or to VCs for some stake in it. The essence is always the same. In both scenarios, the earlier you get them to experience the product for themselves, the better.”
“Fortunately, our product is so universal that it can be applied to almost everything you need to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fund raise, employee onboarding, inspection, deployment process or running your store opening & closing routines.”
Taking Product-Led Growth a step further
“We basically do what others do with product-led growth, we just take it a few steps further.”
“Our product allows us to go further than PLG because the product is about doing things, and usually when you do things, there are multiple steps involved. At its very core, the product is about you manifesting or codifying the steps involved in getting something done”
“And obviously, not every product necessarily allows you to do this. But I actually think you could generally apply this with other products, too. Having the mindset of focusing on the product as much as possible is where it all starts. The product and the impact you make with your product is what ultimately counts. Everything else should be driven by that.”
Embedding the product-first approach in team culture
“When we interview people, the first thing we do is get to know them and see if there is cultural fit. As part of our conversations, we tell them not only about our mission and what we’re building, but also how we’re building it. Not only does this allow us to see quite early if someone gets the concept, but how they think about and would apply the same principle.”
“When we interview engineers, we try to see if they align with our thinking in terms building upon existing things, instead of thinking about everything separately. This also includes our strategy of building upon off-the-shelf solutions for commodity functionality, like authentication or media storage, instead of building and worrying about everything ourselves. As you will have noticed by now, our focus on the product – instead of reinventing the wheel – is what actually drives us.”
“It’s all connected.We want to spend as much time on the product. So we want people who are excited building the product, not building and maintaining infrastructure. We actually try to keep our operational overhead as low as possible.”
“We’d rather ask ourselves ‘should we make this our problem?’ in the first place, before even thinking about ‘how would we tackle this problem?’”
Questmate’s product-first approach in the future
I ask what’s next in Questmate’s product-first approach. Sascha smiles. He’s excited for what else can be achieved using the product. He explains that Questmate will be focusing on growing their Quest library in the near future, leveraging so-called “Setup Quests” to make customization and configuration of those a breath. He even teases other ways the team is looking forward to leveraging the product.
“How can we further use Quests to market the product?”
Despite his visible excitement and enthusiasm while mentioning these ideas, Sascha leaves it at that, keeping Questmate’s next steps under wraps for now. Whatever is coming, it’s clear that Sascha and his team are taking what we know as ‘product-first’ to a new extent.
Keep an eye on Questmate to see how else Sascha and his team use their product in ways you might not expect, and how you can do it too!